ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's been nearly 10 years since the Lobo ski team captured the University of New Mexico's first -- and to date, only -- NCAA team title.
Seventh-year head coach Fredrik Landstedt and his 2013-14 Lobos have their eyes set on repeating what the 2003-04 squad did. As the calendar has flipped to November, preseason dryland training is winding down and UNM is using its weekends to go the distance -- literally -- and train on snow.
This weekend the Nordic Lobos head to Red River, N.M., where 14-16" of snow awaits. The Apline Lobos will be in Colorado and getting reps in on the slopes.
"It's time for another Championship," Landstedt said. "We have the right combination of athletes and we are definitely in the mix this year."
The Lobos are slated to compete in a number of preseason competitions before officially beginning collegiate races Jan. 4-8 in Midway, Utah, at the Utah Invitational. New Mexico hosts its home meet -- the Jade Enterprises UNM Invitational -- Feb. 7-8 in Red River, N.M.
The first big preseason competitions are just around the corner: Nov. 23-26 for men's alpine (NorAm in Loveland, Colo.); Nov. 29-30 for the Nordic team (FIS Super Tour in West Yellowstone, Mont.); and Dec. 1-4 for the women's alpine team (NorAm in Loveland, Colo.).
Landstedt says the Lobos' preseason dryland training has gone very well and that the team's strength this year is balance, noting that UNM has healthy student-athletes in all four facets: men's and women's alpine and men's and women's Nordic.
New Mexico returns 12 letterwinners from last year's squad that had one third-place finish and four fourth-place finishes in Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association competitions.
The Lobos finished sixth at the NCAA Championships and had an individual national champion in Joonas Rasanen (slalom) and a national runner-up in Mats Rudin Resaland (classic) hosted by Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt. -- the team's 30th-consecutive top-10 finish at nationals. Six Lobos brought home All-America honors: Chris Acosta (First Team GS, Second Team SL), Rasanen (First Team SL), Mateja Robnik (Second Team SL) and Resaland (First Team CL, Second Team FS).
Rasanen, Robnik and Resaland are the top returners from last year while Armin Triendl returns fully recovered from a redshirt season forced by ACL tear suffered at the beginning of last season.
"In these four we have skiers that are used to winning and they will pull everyone else on the team closer to the top," Landstedt said. "It's great to have these types of athletes on the team and they benefit everyone else who trains with them daily, knowing they've won races. It's huge.
"Having them back also helps everyone focus and it takes some pressure off when you know that you have top skiers on all four parts of the team."
The Lobos welcome nine newcomers: four alpiners in Scott Snow, Taylor Grauer, Karoline Søvik Myklebust and Sydney Staples, and five Nordics in Caleb Krueger, Aku Nikander, Aljaz Praznik, Anna Daudert and Andrea Lee.
"The new athletes on the team will definitely make an impact this winter," Landstedt said. "On the alpine side we are adding both depth and a few athletes that will be at the NCAAs in March. The men’s alpine squad will be a top team this winter again. On the women’s alpine side, we finally have some depth and we also believe we have added a few skiers that can be placing close to the top. Having five alpine women for the first time in a few years will make our team stronger.
"On the Nordic side we have a very different team with only Mats Resaland, Christian Otto, and Anni Nord left from last year’s NCAA squad. Our most improved team will most likely be the men’s Nordic team where we are hoping that a couple of the new comers will challenge Mats and Christian."
Men's Alpine Returners
Rasanen (Jr., Helsinki, Finland) won the individual slalom title and had four first-place finishes and five top-5 finishes last season. Triendl (Rsr., Oberperfuss, Austria) had a successful 2012 campaign: First Team All-America (5th in GS), RMISA Male Skier of the Year, RMISA Alpine MVP, Capital One Academic All-America, Capital One Academic All-Region and U.S. Collegiate Ski Coaches Association All-Academic Ski Team. He placed in two RMISA events before the injury last year, including a fourth-place finish in the giant slalom at the Colorado Invite. Triendl's return is a definite boost to the Lobos.
Joining Rasanen and Triendl as returners for the men's alpine squad: Michael Bansmer (So., Central Pointe, Ore.), Juho-Pekka Penttinen (Sr., Kupio, Finland), Mark Miller (Jr., Dillon, Colo.) and Sean Horner (Jr., Boulder, Colo.).
Bansmer made his first trip to NCAAs last season, placing 15th in the giant slalom and 31st in the slalom. During the regular season, he had three top-5 finishes, including a season and career-best second place in teh giant slalom at the Colorado Invite in early January.
Penttinen had four top-10 finishes, all in the slalom, placing as high as second in the slalom at the Utah Invite early February. In his freshan campaign, Penttinen finished first in the slalom at UNM's home meet.
Miller is coming off three-top 20 finishes last year, including a season and career-best fifh-place in the slalom at UNM's home meet. Horner had seven top-20 finishes in 2013, placing a career-best seventh at the Colorado Invite.
Women's Alpine Returners
Robnik (Jr., Luce, Slovenia) and sophomore Courntey Altringer (Spokane, Wash.) are the only returners for the alpine women.
In addition to her Second Team All-America honor (9th in the SL), Robnik finished 20th in the Slalom in her first trip to the NCAAs last season. She was a late addition to the squad, joining the team at the start of the second academic semester, but she led the women's alpine team in all eight RMISA events she competed in, placing in the top-10 eight times and finishing as high as third place in both the Slalom and the Giant Slalom at the RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals in late February.
Altringer had a promising freshman season, placing in the top-10 seven times -- five of those top-10 finishes happening in the first week of RMISA competition. Her best finish was fourth in the Giant Slalom at the Colorado Invite.
Men's & Women's Nordic Returners
Four Nordics return: Resaland (Jr., Kongsberg, Norway), Christian Otto (Sr., Waltersdorf, Germany), Anni Nord (Jr., Tammela, Finland) and Anniken Bratlie (RSo., Oslo, Norway).
Resaland, Otto and Nord were 2013 NCAA participants while Bratlie returns after a redshirt season.
Resaland earned First and Second Team All-America honors in his first trip to nationals. He was runner-up in the 10K classic and sixth in the 20K mass-start freestyle. He led the Nordic men in every RMISA event last season and placed in the top-10 in all regular-season races, placing as high as second in the classic at New Mexico's home invitational.
Otto had his best race of the year at nationals, placing 19th in both the classic and freestyle races. He had eight top-20 finishes in 2013, including a season-best 14th in the freestyle at the Utah Invite.
Nord is the only returner from last year for the Nordic women. She placed 19th in the freestyle and 24th in the classic in her second trip to the NCAAs. She led the Lobos three times in 2013, including tying her career-best with a fourth-place finish in the classic at New Mexico's home meet.